The political and social turmoil of the early 20th century did nothing to slow the output of extraordinary piano music from Italy’s great composers. From the lyricism of Italian opera to the bravura of the modernist movement, the piano works on these 20 CDs represent the full emotional spectrum of pre‐ and post‐war Italian music. Featuring giants of Italy’s musical heritage including Busoni, Rota and Respighi, this release also celebrates the substantial output of lesser‐known composers: Pier Paolo Vincenzi provides new recordings of Francesco Cilea’s piano works, along with a freshly recorded selection of Gian Francesco Malipiero’s piano works from Gino Gorini. The operatic tradition dominated Italian music in the late‐19th century, and it was to the credit of composers like Cilea (who was notable for his operas) that Italian piano music began to take itself seriously again – the wit and dexterity of Cilea’s Tre pezzi Op.43 and the signature lyricism and playfulness of Sinigaglia’s Danza Piedmontese put paid to the dusty traditionalism associated with instrumental music. The skill and seriousness of Giuseppe Martucci’s Sei pezzi would later embody a deliberate move away from the operatic to the expressive potential of the late‐Romantic sound world. Increasingly, the landscape of Italian piano music came under the influence of the French and German schools: Malipiero’s characteristic chromaticism and instinctive expressivity pervades his Debussy‐esque Risonanze; and Casella’s À la manière de… – at once erudite and evocative – pays homage to the German (Brahms, Wagner) and French (Ravel, Fauré) masters with uncanny resemblances to the styles of their devotees. The lives of many composers were irreversibly changed by the Mussolini regime (Sinigaglia and Fano fell foul of the anti‐Semitic racial laws of 1938).
They would also be affected by the artistic upheaval that spread across the continent during the postwar years: Dallapiccola – the leading exponent of 12‐tone music in his homeland – furnishes his Tre episodi with unpredictability, aggression and lyricism, recalling the violence and tragedy of the war years; and Castiglioni’s highly inventive and evocative Come io passo l’estate plays with rhetoric in a way perhaps only Ives could equal. Similarly prophetic to Ives, Busoni’s gigantic Fantasia contrapuntistica pays homage to the mastery of Bach whilst exploring hitherto unheard sonorities. Other composers, rejecting the 'isms' of their contemporaries and teachers, embraced the conservative and the lyrical in their music, and in turn were welcomed by huge audiences: Nino Rota’s prolific and versatile output include the elegiac and surprisingly elaborate 15 preludes; and Respighi, while needing little introduction as a composer, showcases his significant output for piano, able to write with as much character and erudition for the instrument as for the orchestra. Along with Sinigaglia and Rota, Ludovico Einaudi has managed to cross over into the mainstream, not only in film but as the most streamed classical artist in the world; the minimalist and unashamedly lyrical dimensions to his music appeal to fans of Classical and popular music alike.
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20th Century Italian Piano Music
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